Posts

August 29, 2014

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12:18 PM | The bad teacher conspiracy
Any time I see an article about the evaluation system for teachers in New York State, I wince. People get it wrong so very often. Yesterday’s New York Times article written by Elizabeth Harris was even worse than usual. First, her wording. She mentioned a severe drop in student reading and math proficiency rates statewide and attributed […]

August 28, 2014

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11:37 AM | Twin studies stand up to the critique, again
The history of twin studies is littered with attempts to discredit them – such as this bit of rubbish. Yet every challenge has been met, with a couple of newish studies knocking off another. The basic idea of twin studies is that by comparing the similarity of fraternal twins to the similarity of identical twins, you can […]
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11:08 AM | A decision tree for decision trees
For a while now I’ve been thinking I should build a decision tree for deciding which algorithm to use on a given data project. And yes, I think it’s kind of cool that “decision tree” would be an outcome on my decision tree. Kind of like a nerd pun. I’m happy to say that I […]
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5:30 AM | Review: Happiness by Design (Paul Dolan)
Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life Hardcover, 256 pages, ISBN: 9780241003107, published 28 August 2014 Amazon / Google Books / Allen Lane Many economists balk at the mention of happiness research. I consider myself a sceptic. But people care about attaining happiness, and governments care about measuring it. And why not? There are behaviours […]

August 27, 2014

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7:29 PM | Challenge accepted
That was wet. 
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12:32 PM | Aise O’Neil at Gotham Comedy Club
I don’t usually blog about my kids, but my 14-year-old son has explicitly given me his blessing to post his recent stand-up performance at the Gotham Comedy Club: The look he gives the audience at the end is my favorite part.

August 26, 2014

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7:12 PM | PSA for professors and other supervisors with access to social media
Just in case you didn't know, it's not helpful to call out your direct reports on social media, especially platforms that lend themselves to screen shots and anonymous image sharing sites.(Should a professor or other boss-type entities friend their direct reports on social media? No, says CJ.) 
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7:06 PM | August 2014 Chemical Activity Barometer slowing a bit, but still grows
From the American Chemistry Council: The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), continued to see moderated upward growth this month, with a 0.2 percent gain over July as measured on a three-month moving average (3MMA). This represented a deceleration from the 0.4 percent gain in July and an average gain of 0.5 percent for the first six months of 2014...  “Consistent with other recent economic reports, […]
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11:20 AM | The Stubborn Hope of an Urban Teacher
Yesterday I read a book written by Carole Marshall which she called Stubborn Hope: Memoir of an Urban Teacher (thanks to Ernest Davis for sending it to me). Just to give you an idea of how quick this read is, I read it before class. I think it took about 1 hour and 10 minutes in […]

August 25, 2014

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7:57 PM | Well, it had to happen
I see my coauthor Alex Goldberg has challenged me (along with Derek Lowe and Carmen Drahl) to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I am honored to be included among them. Guess I'll get a bucket and a towel. 
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3:10 PM | This week's C&EN:
Some interesting articles:This week's cover story on food adulterants, by Marc Reisch (would have been nice to hear more about NMR of food.) Glenn Hess has a write-up of the MV Cape Ray's completed destruction of Syrian chemical weapons precursors. This story about dengue fever in Taiwan following a petrochemical pipeline explosion is interesting and a bit unexpected. (story by Jean-François Tremblay)Jyllian Kemsley covers proposed new definitions of the mole and the […]
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11:20 AM | Gilian Tett gets it very wrong on racial profiling
Last Friday Gillian Tett ran a profoundly disturbing article in the Financial Times entitled Mapping Crime – Or Stirring Hate? (hat tip Marcos Carreira), which makes me sad to say this given how much respect I normally have for her regarding her coverage of the financial crisis. In the article, Tett describes the predictive policing model used by the Chicago […]

August 24, 2014

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3:04 PM | Why does anyone even care about the future?
The human community spans not only space but time. Naturally, we include in our community those closest to us--family and friends--and then in concentric circles of affiliation our co-workers; our fellow churchgoers (if we do that kind of thing); members of a civic group, a book club or a sports team to which we belong; the inhabitants of our town or city, of course; and our country. Some people even count themselves as citizens of the world.And, while we tend to reserve our deepest feelings […]
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5:48 AM | A dramatic reading of "A comprehensive overview of chemical-free consumer products"
As part of the Acts of Whimsy for this year's Geek Girl Con, I decided to make a recording of the paper that Alex Goldberg and I submitted to Nature Chemistry. I hope you enjoy. (One more dramatic reading on its way.)Please, if you can, feel free to donate to the cause. Just like last year, if you donate and tell me, I will offer you a handwritten thank you note and for any donation of $20 or more, I will write a post of your choosing.

August 23, 2014

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2:52 PM | Aunt Pythia’s advice: the sex edition
Holy crap it’s already been an eventful morning and it’s not even 10am. Aunt Pythia blew a bike tire on the George Washington Bridge and had to walk back across and find the 1 train near 181st street, which was hidden from view. Seriously, it was. Now, if Aunt Pythia ever asked for advice herself, […]

August 22, 2014

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7:20 PM | The worst evaluation you will read today
For those of you who remember/were alive for the Reagan years, you will be interested to see that Paul Laxalt's grandson, Adam Laxalt, is running for Nevada attorney general. Someone has chosen to leak an evaluation of his time at a Las Vegas law firm to a journalist, Jon Ralston. It's... not complimentary*: The assessment by the Lewis & Roca Associate Evaluation and Compensation Committee (AECC) suggested that Laxalt attend seminars to "address basic legal principles" because of his […]
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7:00 PM | I'm trying, I'm trying
Another busy week means not much blogging. I'm reminded for some reason of this passage in Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential:...I worked with a chef who used to step behind the line to a dirty cook's station in the middle of the rush to explain why the offending cook was falling behind. He'd press his palm down on the cutting board, which was littered with peppercorns, spattered sauce, bits of parsley, breadcrumbs and the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates quickly on a station if […]
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11:19 AM | Jeff Larson kills it at the Lede Program
So, Jeff Larson from ProPublica came yesterday to talk to us at the Lede Program, and damn that guy is awesome. First, he showed us his work with the ProPublica Message Machine, where they first crowdsourced, then reverse engineered Obama’s political targeting algorithm. Turns out they used decision trees for that, so we got to talk about […]
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10:44 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Side effect warnings increase sales by building trust. Similar effects for disclosing conflicts of interest (ungated pdf). Absorbing information on paper versus kindle. Even without digital search, I often find it easier to find favourite passages in the physical form. Humans aren’t the only ones fighting wars. I pointed out a couple […]

August 21, 2014

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5:49 PM | An intern is going to be executed at dawn for this one
In the American Chemistry Council's daily newsletter, a link to a "Minding the Campus" piece by Peter Sacks titled "WHAT STEM CRISIS? THERE ISN’T ONE." Surely someone has screwed up here, sending this piece out.I like the cut of Mr. Sacks' jib.(The article itself is a good summary of material covered here and elsewhere.) 
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1:33 PM | When the story IS the interaction with the public
Here at the Lede Program we’ve been getting lots of different perspectives on what data journalism is and what it could be. As usual I will oversimplify for the sake of clarity, and apologies in advance to anyone I might offend. The old school version of data journalism, which is called computer assisted reporting, maintains […]

August 20, 2014

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5:01 PM | My thought of the day, Mary McCarthy version
Every word that guy says needed to be checked, including 'and' and 'the'. - CJliterary context here
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11:15 AM | Nafeez Ahmed to join Alt Banking this Sunday
I am super excited to announce that best-selling British author Nafeez Ahmed will be speaking at the Alt Banking group this Sunday. The title of his talk is Mass Surveillance and the Crisis of Civilization: The inevitable collapse of the old paradigm and the potential for the rise of the new. Ahmed is an international security […]

August 19, 2014

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3:42 PM | Peter Cappelli on the skills gap
Peter Cappelli is a Wharton School professor and the author of Why Good People Can't Get Jobs. He has written a long National Bureau of Economic Research working paper on the so-called "skills gap." It's worth noting that Professor Cappelli is a 'skills gap' skeptic. Here's a small excerpt:More generally, if the labor market is not enticing students to pursue particular fields, should public policy push them to do so? Manufacturers, for example, have long complained about the shortage of […]
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11:28 AM | Advertising vs. Privacy
I’ve was away over the weekend (apologies to Aunt Pythia fans!) and super busy yesterday but this morning I finally had a chance to read Ethan Zuckerman’s Atlantic piece entitled The Internet’s Original Sin, which was sent to me by my friend Ernest Davis. Here’s the thing, Zuckerman gets lots of things right in the […]

August 18, 2014

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3:42 PM | This week's C&EN
Some interesting articles here:I had no idea that Sally Evans (Dave Evans' wife) was responsible for ChemDraw; it's really a remarkable #altchemjobs story, when you get down to it. (story by Bethany Halford)Someone doesn't like that C&EN has a paywall. I'm still finding the rail car safety debate fascinating - DOT wants DOT-111 tankcars retrofitted and that's catching the ethanol industry by surprise. I think I'm okay with this, but I understand why folks who own these cars are […]
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11:10 AM | What can be achieved by Data Science?
This is a guest post by Sophie Chou, who recently graduated from Columbia in Computer Science and is on her way to the MIT Media Lab. Crossposted on Sophie’s blog. “Data Science” is one of my least favorite tech buzzwords, second to probably “Big Data”, which in my opinion should be always printed followed by a […]

August 17, 2014

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2:56 PM | I'd be happier if I didn't write this stuff!
Thus happiness depends, as Nature shows,Less on exterior things than most suppose.                   --William CowperFor years my father--who is a really great guy--has been telling me that I'd be a happier person if I didn't write about all the converging threats bearing down on the human race. Turns out he's right!Here's what a new study said on the matter:Recent evidence suggests that a state of good […]

August 16, 2014

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11:03 PM | A week of links
Links this week: An awesome looking conference – Complexity and Evolution: A New Synthesis for Economics Hybridisation – what does it mean for conversation and the future of species? Picking up in a Lamborghini Status wars How far are we from designer babies? Neuroscience and marketing

August 15, 2014

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2:30 PM | The Jones Group Gets Serious
Apply for your own armored tactical vehicle here. 
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